The Stone Circle by Elly Griffiths

The Stone Circle

I’m beginning to get rather excited as I am privileged to be interviewing Elly Griffiths at my local Deepings Literary Festival at the end of May and, having heard her speak at several other events and loving her writing, I was thrilled when a surprise copy of Elly’s latest Ruth Galloway novel The Stone Circle arrived. My enormous thanks to Hannah Robinson at Quercus for sending it to me.

The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths was one of the first books I reviewed when I began blogging and you’ll find that review here. My review of The Crossing Places is here and of Smoke and Mirrors is here.

(I also have a review of Elly’s Domenica de Rosa novel One Summer in Tuscany here.)

Published by Quercus on 7th February 2019, you can purchase The Stone Circle in e-book or hardback or pre-order the paperback through these links.

The Stone Circle

The Stone Circle

DCI Nelson has been receiving threatening letters telling him to ‘go to the stone circle and rescue the innocent who is buried there’. He is shaken, not only because children are very much on his mind, with Michelle’s baby due to be born, but because although the letters are anonymous, they are somehow familiar. They read like the letters that first drew him into the case of The Crossing Places, and to Ruth. But the author of those letters is dead. Or are they?

Meanwhile Ruth is working on a dig in the Saltmarsh – another henge, known by the archaeologists as the stone circle – trying not to think about the baby. Then bones are found on the site, and identified as those of Margaret Lacey, a twelve-year-old girl who disappeared thirty years ago.

As the Margaret Lacey case progresses, more and more aspects of it begin to hark back to that first case of The Crossing Places, and to Scarlett Henderson, the girl Nelson couldn’t save. The past is reaching out for Ruth and Nelson, and its grip is deadly.

My Review of The Stone Circle

The past is about to catch up with Dr Ruth Galloway and DCI Nelson.

I have a confession. I have all the Dr Ruth Galloway novels sitting on my shelves awaiting reading and I kept thinking I couldn’t read the latest until I’d caught up with all the others. How wrong can a person be? The Stone Circle is possibly enhanced by knowing a bit about the other stories, but coming to it without having read anything else by Elly Griffiths wouldn’t matter at all. The ease with which past histories for her characters are slipped naturally into the writing is just fabulous to read. Elly Griffiths has a smooth, sophisticated and completely accessible style that I’m sure other writers can only dream of, so that The Stone Circle can be read as a complete stand alone despite being part of a series.

The plot to The Stone Circle is so captivating because it is entirely plausible and yet still takes the reader by surprise. Part of the joy in this is the almost deadpan manner in which major events are sometimes revealed and the wonderful touches of humour. I love the undercurrent of mysticism too as it is only ever a suggestion that can usually be explained but still manages to be entirely beguiling. The misty, superstitious Norfolk setting adds to this atmosphere, as past and present echo and reverberate through the story.

But for me, despite being entirely engrossed in the narrative, it is the characters who make Elly Griffiths such a pleasure to read. The people in The Stone Circle are so human and real with their flaws, their desires and the messy realities of their lives that reading about them made me want to meet them and to be part of the action with them. Dr Ruth Galloway is a wonderful almost anti-heroine and all the more attractive for that. She lives in splendid geographical isolation and I thought the way in which she is presented almost at a tangent to the main action in The Stone Circle, and yet is still absolutely necessary to the plot, was just perfect. And I am, without doubt, completely in love with Nelson!

It’s hard to pin down the captivating quality of Elly Griffiths’ writing in The Stone Circle. The writing is accessible, the plot is wonderful, the setting vivid and the characters completely believable and yet somehow those elements add up to something greater than their sum should be. Elly Griffiths has a magic touch in this Dr Ruth Galloway series and I loved The Stone Circle without reservation. It is another winner.

About Elly Griffiths

elly griffiths

Elly Griffiths was born in London. She worked in publishing before becoming a full-time writer. Her bestselling series of Dr Ruth Galloway novels, featuring a forensic archaeologist, are set in Norfolk. The series has won the CWA Dagger in the Library, and has been shortlisted three times for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year.

Elly’s The Brighton Mysteries series is set in the 1950s and 1960s. She lives near Brighton with her husband, an archaeologist, and their two grown children.

You can follow Elly on Twitter @ellygriffiths, find her on Facebook or visit her website for more information.

 

Only Ever Her by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

only ever her

My grateful thanks to Katie Olsen at Little Bird Publicity for a copy of Only Ever Her by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen in return for an honest review.

Only Ever Her is published by Lake Union today, 7th May 2019, and is available for purchase here.

Only Ever Her

only ever her

It was to be the perfect wedding—until the bride disappeared.

Annie Taft’s wedding is four days away, and it will be one of the grandest anyone can remember in her small South Carolina town. Preparations are in order. Friends and family are gathering in anticipation. Everything is going according to plan. Except that Annie herself has vanished. Did she have second thoughts? Or has something much worse happened to the bride-to-be?

While her loved ones frantically try to track her down, they’re forced to grapple with their own secrets—secrets with the power to reframe entire relationships, leaving each to wonder how well they really knew Annie and how well they know themselves.

My Review of Only Ever Her

Annie is about to get married but her mother’s killer is also being released from prison.

Initially I didn’t think I was going to enjoy Only Ever Her because it took me a while to attune my British reader eye to the American tone of the book. However, once I had done so I thought Only Ever Her was a hugely compelling narrative and one I thoroughly enjoyed.

The plot veered me away from my expectations almost immediately. With doubt over the newly released Cordell Lewis’s conviction for killing Lydia, I assumed this would be the main focus of the story but Marybeth Mayhew Whalen had other ideas. I found it very entertaining to be wrong-footed so that there was much more to the story than I had anticipated.

Only Ever Her illustrates the close-knit, claustrophobic, small town America atmosphere brilliantly. Although everyone knows everyone else’s business, the undercurrent of deception and distraction makes the reader feel they are part of the action because they know elements the characters do not. I felt Only Ever Her had quite a Twin Peaks feel to it and it would make an excellent television series.

The characters are distinct and realistic. I don’t usually like books where there are several threads with different chapters allocated to individual characters but here it worked very effectively because they are all so well-defined. It fascinated me how Marybeth Mayhew Whalen managed to manipulate me as a reader. For example, I didn’t warm to Laurel at all at the start and yet by the end of the story I felt I understood her well and had come to like her. It’s also incredibly clever how the entire plot revolves around Annie and yet she is hardly present at all. It was as if I had taken ownership of her without really knowing her – in much the same way the townsfolk do.

The themes of Only Ever Her have huge relevance to today’s society. There’s injustice and prejudice, loyalty and deception, love and longing so that the small town setting of the book could be applied to any location, making it all the more pertinent for any reader.

Having begun reading Only Ever Her feeling quite detached, I ended the book with a lump in my throat and the sensation that I had been fully entertained. I really enjoyed it.

About Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

marybeth

Marybeth Mayhew Whalen is the author of The Things We Wish Were True and five previous novels. She speaks to women’s groups around the US. Marybeth is married to Curt and they are the parents of six children, ranging from young adult to elementary age. The family lives in North Carolina. Marybeth spends most of her time in the grocery store but occasionally escapes long enough to scribble some words. She is always at work on her next novel.

You can find out more by following Marybeth on Twitter @marybethwhalen and visiting her website.

Number Ten by Robin Hawdon

Number 10

This is going to be a longer blog post introduction than usual! Reviewing Number Ten has a special relevance for me, not least because I have previously featured Robin Hawdon’s writing before on Linda’s Book Bag when I reviewed his children’s book Charley Poon’s Pomes here.

Also, one of the best books I have ever read and which I still recommend at every available opportunity, was written by another member of Robin’s family, Lindsay Hawdon. I reviewed Lindsay’s Jakob’s Colours here when I very first began blogging (although the blog has evolved somewhat since then) and I was privileged to interview Lindsay about it when Linda’s Book Bag was a year old. That post can be found here.

Now add into the mix Jason Hewitt, whose own brilliant Devastation Road was another of the very early books I reviewed here, who contacted me and asked it I would be prepared to review Number Ten. Jason interviewed the much missed Vanessa Lafaye on the blog when her stunning At First Light was published. You can find out all about that here and read my review of At First Light here. With so many fabulous authors and books in the mix you can begin to see why I feel so emotionally involved in this blog post and I couldn’t resist accepting Robin Hawdon’s Number Ten too – even if I do genuinely have over 900 hard copies of books awaiting reading!

Number Ten was published by Brown Dog Books on 9th April 2019 and is available for purchase here. My enormous thanks to Jason Hewitt for sending me a copy in return for an honest review.

Number Ten

Number 10

Unknown forces attempt to assassinate radical new British Prime Minister, James Torrence.

No-one knows whether they were organised by business magnates, criminal oligarchs, or jihadist extremists, all of whom are threatened by his rule.

What is known is that they are getting information from inside Number Ten Downing Street.

Paul Gunter, bright young member of the PM’s staff, is arrested by MI5 in the middle of the night, and finds himself falsely implicated in the assassination attempt. He has to fight for his life against all involved parties, using his inside knowledge of Downing Street processes, and the reluctant help of senior staff member, Andrea Holt, to extricate himself.

Will the pair survive against vastly superior forces?

Will James Torrence and his fragile government endure amidst the revelations?

Will love win out against political intrigue?

Suspense, romance, and high action ranging across modern London’s extraordinary cityscape and beyond. Explosive new post-Brexit thriller from one of Britain’s most prolific writers.

My Review of Number Ten

A series of bomb attacks leads to a tangled web of action.

Wow. Number Ten begins in explosive fashion and maintains a high-octane, fast pace until the very last word. Reading Number Ten felt akin to riding a rather breathtaking fairground ride and I hardly had time to catch my breath. Although this is fiction, so many similar events to those in the plot have happened recently here in the UK and abroad in countries like Sri Lanka, after Number Ten‘s publication, that any suspension of disbelief that might have been needed simply evaporated. The action in Number Ten felt real, vivid and only too scarily possible.

It is obvious that Robin Hawdon writes with a director’s eye. He understands exactly what information is needed to hook the reader, to create setting and to drive the action, making reading the book an almost cinematic experience. Number Ten would translate into the most fabulous television series because the pace is perfect and there are surprises that shock in a scenario that is utterly believable. On occasion, the reader only receives information at the same time as the characters so that it feels as if you’re part of the action too. Indeed, I found the quality of the writing completely engaging. The present tense used for Rafik creates an immediacy and ongoing threat and those passages involving Paul are slick, sophisticated and superbly crafted. I think the natural quality of the direct speech adds to the sensation that Number Ten is something special.

I thoroughly enjoyed the characterisation and as I abhor injustice I was immediately on Paul’s side even before I’d been given all the information about him. It came as no surprise to me that there is corruption in the heart of power and that a minion like Paul can be used and abused by both that power and external forces. I thoroughly enjoyed the manner in which the mundane elements of his life prove essential in what is happening to him, although I can’t say too much for fear of spoiling the plot for others. Themes of corruption, love, loyalty, betrayal, threat, politics in many forms, idealism, policing – I could go on – weave their way through this exciting story so naturally, making Number Ten all the more captivating.

I so enjoyed Number Ten. If I say that I had to give up trying to sleep at three in the morning because I only had 40 pages or so left to read and I kept wondering what was happening in my absence, you’ll know how powerful a hold the narrative had on me.  Number Ten is a glorious thriller that kept me enthralled throughout. I really recommend it.

About Robin Hawdon

robin-hawdon

Dividing his time between Bath, Australia and the South of France, actor, playwright and grandfather Robin Hawdon has enjoyed a successful forty year career in the entertainment industry. During the early years he was a regular face on British TV — appearing in many series and co-starring with Michael Crawford in ITV’s ‘Chalk and Cheese’ and starring in a number of films. He has trod the boards as Hamlet, Henry V and Henry Higgins in Pygmalion and in leading roles in London’s West End.

Later his love of writing dominated his career and he is now recognised as one of the UK’s most prolific comedy playwrights —with productions including The Mating Game which has played in over thirty countries and Don’t Dress For Dinner which ran in the West End for six years before playing on Broadway and around the English speaking world. Many of his plays are published by Samuel French and Josef Weinberger. Robin has also directed a number of stage productions, and in the 1980’s founded the Bath Fringe festival, and subsequently became Director of the Theatre Royal Bath, England’s premier touring theatre.

He has written several novels including A Rustle in the Grass, published by Hutchinsons in 1984 and republished recently by Thistle. A second novel, The Journey was published in 2002 by Hawthorns and a third, Survival of the Fittest, by SBPR in 2013.

You can find out more about Robin on his website and by following him on Twitter @AUTHORDEBATE.

Jasper: Space Dog by Hilary Robinson

Jasper

My enormous thanks to Strauss House and the team at StonehillSalt PR for a surprise copy of children’s book Jasper: Space Dog by Hilary Robinson, illustrated by Lewis James. I so loved Peace Lily by Hilary Robinson, reviewed here, that it was one of my top three books in 2018, so I was delighted when Jasper; Space Dog was waiting for me in my bookpost on my return from a recent holiday.

Jasper: Space Dog was published on 4th April 2019 and is a 50th moon landing anniversary book available for purchase here.

Jasper: Space Dog

Jasper

Jasper: Space Dog is the first in a series of hilarious stories about the ambitions of Charlie Tanner and his dog, Jasper.

Released to mark the 50th anniversary of the moon landings, the story cleverly weaves facts about space missions with hilarious ideas about space.

In their quest, Jasper and Charlie consult space experts to see if Jasper might make history too.

Several considerations regarding the design and layout of Jasper Space Dog have been made including the use of dyslexie font and cream paper stock to assist those who may find some aspects of reading challenging.

My Review of Jasper: Space Dog

Jasper, Charlie Tanner’s dog, has ambitions!

What a brilliant children’s book. Never mind children, it took me right back to the moon landings when I was the same age as 8 year old Charlie Tanner and I think adults of around my age would love this story just as much as the children at whom it is aimed. So many memories were rekindled by reading Jasper: Space Dog that I now feel incredibly nostalgic.

Jasper: Space Dog is perfectly plotted for independent or shared reading. There’s a clear font with an excellent balance of text to illustration and the email structure gives natural and frequent breaks to those children who struggle with reading. The illustrations deserve praise in their own right because, whilst they are professional and fitting for the text, they have a level of naivety that is perfect for the age range aimed at.

I loved the humour in Jasper: Space Dog and think children will too. However, the best part of the book for me was the manner in which facts, science and history are interwoven so that children are learning without realising because they are simply enjoying a smashing story. This is such skilful writing for children and I can see the book shared at home or at school very successfully.

It’s obvious that a considerable amount of time and effort has gone in to creating an accessible, entertaining and educational story in Jasper: Space Dog that is wonderful for children of all ages! I really recommend it.

About Hilary Robinson

hilary r

Hilary Robinson is an author, radio producer, broadcaster and feature writer. She was born in Devon and brought up in Nigeria and England. The author of over forty books for children she is best known for Mixed Up Fairy Tales. Her books have been translated into a number of languages and are sold across the world. She lives and works in London and Yorkshire.

You can follow Hilary on Twitter @HilsRobinson and visit her website for more information.

On the Occasion of a Wedding by Ollie Bowen

on the occasion of a wedding

It’s been a while since I featured poetry here on Linda’s Book Bag and I’m delighted to remedy that today with my review of On the Occasion of a Wedding by Ollie Bowen. My enormous thanks to Ollie for sending me a copy of her collection, written as a wedding gift to friends, in return for an honest review.

On the Occasion of a Wedding is available for purchase here.

On the Occasion of a Wedding

on the occasion of a wedding

On the Occasion of a Wedding is a collection of poetry celebrating what it means to truly love another person. From the soulfully simple to the humorously erotic. From the deeply spiritual to the painfully profound.

Composed as a wedding gift for a dear friend, the book is divided into four chapters, each blending a variety of literary styles.

  • Flores Caelesti (heavenly flowers)
  • Caelo Marique (sky and sea)
  • Amor Insanus (crazy love)
  • Pluit et Lucet (rains and shines)

Readers are taken on a heartfelt journey through love’s blessings, joys, and tears. Because it is the sting of love that makes it so beautiful.

My Review of On the Occasion of a Wedding

What could be better as a wedding gift than a collection of love poems?

On the Occasion of a Wedding is an incredible volume of poems to which I don’t think my reader brain or this review can do justice.

On one level, all the poems in On the Occasion of a Wedding can be enjoyed relatively easily and superficially for the beauty of their appearance, their rhythms and cadences alongside some wonderful illustrations and for their ease of accessibility. On other occasions I found I had to think hard to understand their meaning and references. This is by no means a criticism but an extra joy in reading and discovering something new to me. I had no idea what the Zaimph of Tanit was, for example, and scurried off to the great god Google to find out. As a result, not only have I enjoyed beautiful imagery, clever structure and moving imagery in the poems in On the Occasion of a Wedding, but I have learned something new along the way so that this slim volume has kept me entertained, moved and educated for hours more than the initial reading of its contents and the size of the volume might suggest.

It’s difficult to convey how much there is to enjoy in On the Occasion of a Wedding. I found Ollie Bowen’s writing emotional, funny and sensual and I adored the natural images that pepper the verse. I kept changing my mind about which poem I liked the most because every time I went back to reread them I found something new, innovative or mystical to contemplate. The simplicity of Everything I thought was beautiful and I genuinely think I’d like to have Quando read at my husband’s funeral (assuming he dies before me some time in the distant future!).

In a sense, I shouldn’t be reviewing On The Occasion of a Wedding as I don’t feel I’ve finished reading it. I’ve certainly read each poem at least three or four times, but I have only scratched the surface of their meanings and I feel I have so much more to discover as I return to Ollie Bowen’s writing time and again. I can only recommend that you read On the Occasion of a Wedding too and see if you can do it more justice than I have!

About Ollie Bowen

ollie

Ollie bowen is an author and scholar.

She holds degrees in education, business, and science, though her favorite subject is rhetorical argument.

She currently resides in Northern California with her one husband, plethora of children, and semi-loyal dog.

You can find find Ollie on Instagram and Pinterest or follow her on Twitter @olliebowenbooks and visit her website for more information.

Rough Magic by Lara Prior-Palmer

Rough magic

My enormous thanks to Charlotte Hollinshead at Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of Rough Magic by Lara Prior-Palmer in return for an honest review.

Published by Penguin imprint Ebury on 6th June 2019, Rough Magic is available for pre-order through the links here.

Rough Magic

Rough magic

The Mongol Derby is the world’s toughest horse race. A feat of endurance across the vast Mongolian plains once traversed by the people of Genghis Khan, competitors ride 25 horses across a distance of 1000km. Many riders don’t make it to the finish line.

In 2013 Lara Prior-Palmer – nineteen, underprepared but seeking the great unknown – decided to enter the race. Driven by her own restlessness, stubbornness, and a lifelong love of horses, she raced for seven days through extreme heat and terrifying storms, catching a few hours of sleep where she could at the homes of nomadic families. Battling bouts of illness and dehydration, exhaustion and bruising falls, she found she had nothing to lose, and tore through the field with her motley crew of horses. In one of the Derby’s most unexpected results, she became the youngest-ever champion and the first woman to win the race.

A tale of adventure, fortitude and poetry, Rough Magic is the extraordinary story of one young woman’s encounter with oblivion, and herself.

My Review of Rough Magic

In a moment of rashness, Lara Prior-Palmer enters the Mongol Derby

I almost never read memoir or auto-biographical writing and this fantastic book by Lara Prior-Palmer has served to illustrate what a wealth of delight I am missing. I adored Rough Magic and hurtled through it over a weekend because it held my attention so completely.

Part memoir, part travelogue, part history, part coming of age narrative, Rough Magic is totally captivating. Hearing about the race is exciting enough, especially with the added peril of Devlan riding ahead of Lara for most of the race, but I hadn’t expected quite such beautiful and atmospheric language. Lara Prior-Palmers prose has the same kind of resonance as Dylan Thomas’ verse and the recurring references to Shakespeare’s The Tempest add to the other-worldy feel of some of the passages. The writing is vital, lively and evocative.

I loved the way Lara Prior- Palmer transported me to a life so different from my own. Her naivety afforded a freshness to her descriptions that took me to the heart of Mongolia and the race itself. There are so many aspects of the writing that I want to explore further that great joy and entertainment lasts long after Rough Magic has been read. Save for an afternoon on an Icelandic pony a couple of years ago, it’s about 45 years since I last rode and yet Lara Prior- Palmer’s words brought that connection between human and animal flooding back. Indeed, so vivid are her descriptions that a reader needs to know nothing about riding to be immersed in, and captivated by, this adventure.

However, the element I enjoyed the most in Rough Magic was getting to know the author  – as much as that is possible, given that she hardly seems to know herself. Her sense of isolation, of always striving for something that is just out of reach, of never really being allowed just to be herself, shines from the page so that it is impossible not to like and admire this incredibly feisty young woman. She made me smile with her ignorance and her vitality. She drops life changing details into her writing almost as asides and Rough Magic has made me admire Lara Prior-Palmer enormously.

Having thought I wouldn’t be much interested in Rough Magic, I have finished the book feeling energised, entertained and privilged to have had a glimpse of Lara Prior-Palmer’s personality and experiences. I thought Rough Magic was magnificent and can’t recommend it highly enough.

About Lara Prior-Palmer

lara-pp

Lara Prior-Palmer made headlines in 2013 when she became the first woman — and the youngest ever competitor — to win the Mongol Derby. Born in London in 1994, Lara routinely packed and unpacked her bags as a child, despite having nowhere to go.

She studied conceptual history and Persian at Stanford University, and has lived and loved, for varying lengths of time, in California, England, Iran and Wales. Rough Magic is her first book.

You can follow Lara on Twitter @LaraPriorPalmer and visit her website for more information.